Al­leged lack of pro­tec­tion for cari­bou prompts law­suit against Min­is­ter

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - NATIONAL - MIA RABSON THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

OT­TAWA — A wildlife ad­vo­cacy group is tak­ing En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna to court for al­legedly fail­ing to tell Cana­di­ans how the coun­try’s woodland cari­bou are be­ing pro­tected.

The Cana­dian Parks and Wilder­ness So­ci­ety said Thurs­day it had filed an ap­pli­ca­tion for ju­di­cial re­view in Fed­eral Court in Mon­treal.

The Species at Risk Act re­quires the en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter to “form an opin­ion about whether or not the crit­i­cal habi­tat of the woodland cari­bou is pro­tected,” lawyer Fred­eric Paquin told a news con­fer­ence.

“She was sup­posed to form that opin­ion more than four and a half years ago and she failed to do so,” said Paquin. “She is quite late.”

The orig­i­nal fail­ure to re­port oc­curred un­der the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment, but there have also been no re­ports since the Lib­er­als and McKenna took of­fice in 2015.

The woodland cari­bou habi­tat was pub­licly iden­ti­fied by En­vi­ron­ment Canada in 2012. The Species at Risk Act says once the habi­tat of a species at risk is iden­ti­fied, the min­is­ter of en­vi­ron­ment has six months to de­ter­mine if any part of that habi­tat is un­pro­tected.

Ev­ery six months af­ter that, the min­is­ter is to pro­duce a re­port on the progress to­wards pro­tect­ing it un­til full pro­tec­tion is achieved.

The wilder­ness so­ci­ety says there have been no re­ports at all since 2012.

It’s not just about pro­duc­ing re­ports for the sake of do­ing so, said Eric He­bert-Daly, the so­ci­ety’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. The pur­pose of the re­ports, he said, is to drive a work plan to ac­tu­ally pro­tect the an­i­mals.

He­bert-Daly calls the cari­bou an “um­brella species.” Pro­tect­ing their bo­real for­est habi­tat would also pro­tect the habi­tat of many others, as well as fresh wa­ter sources and car­bon sinks which help com­bat cli­mate change.

“When we do what is right for the cari­bou, we do what is right for our­selves,” he said.

A spokes­woman for McKenna said En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Canada of­fi­cials will re­view the court fil­ing, but won’t com­ment on it since it is a mat­ter be­fore the court.

Marie-Pas­cale Des Rosiers said McKenna met with her pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial coun­ter­parts in Fe­bru­ary to dis­cuss species at risk in­clud­ing the bo­real woodland cari­bou.

“Our gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to the pro­tec­tion and re­cov­ery of Canada’s species at risk, such as the bo­real cari­bou, in a timely man­ner us­ing con­ser­va­tion mea­sures based on sound science and ro­bust re­cov­ery plans,” Des Rosiers said in a state­ment.

The woodland cari­bou habi­tat spans nine prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries. His­tor­i­cally, their range cov­ered more than half of present­day Canada, but they now oc­cupy about 2.4 mil­lion square kilo­me­tres, about half their 19th-cen­tury ter­ri­tory. They used to be found as far south as the north­ern United States in places like Wash­ing­ton, Idaho, Min­nesota, Michi­gan and parts of New Eng­land.

The largest threat to the cari­bou is habi­tat loss, which has driven down the pop­u­la­tion. In­dus­trial devel­op­ment re­mains the largest threat to the habi­tat, which is mostly on non-fed­eral land.

The species was des­ig­nated in 2002 as threat­ened by the Com­mit­tee on the Sta­tus of En­dan­gered Wildlife in Canada. In 2011 En­vi­ron­ment Canada es­ti­mated there were about 34,000 woodland cari­bou in 51 ranges in nine prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries from New­found­land to the Yukon.

ADRIAN WYLD/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Cather­ine McKenna speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Ot­tawa in Fe­bru­ary. McKenna is be­ing sued for fail­ing to tell Cana­di­ans how the coun­try’s woodland cari­bou are be­ing pro­tected. The Cana­dian Parks and Wilder­ness So­ci­ety filed an ap­pli­ca­tion for ju­di­cial re­view in Fed­eral Court in Mon­treal Thurs­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.